Some artists choose to express themselves with music, but with Devon James, the music chose him.
It started with his grandfather, a tuba player for Dixieland Jazz bands that performed for the Ed Sullivan Show and Carnegie Hall. The family line continued with his father who manages and performs with foundational Jamaican ska group The Skatalites. As a teenager, James jumped on stage with his dad's band, playing guitar to crowds of thousands at festivals across Europe. Back home in Boston and still underage, he'd sneak into clubs by carrying the rocksteady DJ's gear. Countless nights spent studying his moves in the booth taught James how to use turntables, and soon enough, he was throwing wild college house parties of his own.
He came up DJing in the blog house era, and his love for electro led him to discover the funky disco, soulful Chicago house and body-thumping Detroit techno that colors his sound today. His tracks and DJ sets are experiential, carefully crafted for a particular time and place with an aim to get bodies moving. Felix Da Housecat is a fan, having tapped James as a production collaborator and tour manager for years. Co-credits on his mentor's 2015 LP "Narrative of Thee Blast Illusion" included musical and visual direction for album single “The Natural” feat. Lee Scratch Perry. The hands-on, ground-up experience gave James the confidence to push his own vision toward the spot light.
Armed with a multidisciplinary background, a vast array of influences and a lifetime of experience maneuvering the industry from all angles, James
biggest strength is his range. On “Still in Love,” he bounces piano-driven house over a rumbling bass line with pop vocal appeal, while “Superstar” brings tech-laced funk for the club. “Long Distance Lemonade” plays with French Touch groove, and “Broken Sandwich” drips with acid fizz.
“I like cooking, but I don't want to eat the same dish every day,” James says. “As an artist, it's necessary to try different things and experiment. I am going to do something different, and I think people are ready for that.”
His latest release, the Madness EP, a collaboration with fellow Bostonians Warung that steps up the funk with progressive grooves and steamy club percussion. Both the title track and its upbeat A-side “Lucidity” are full of seductive edge, mysterious moods and late-night wonder. Set for release on Waze & Odyssey's label W&O Street Tracks, James' second on the label following 2019's flirty, tribal single “People Are Still Having Sex.”
A degree in film and sound design helps James approach each creation with a holistic concept, so he can conjure not only a dope groove but a fully-fleshed world. His reggae roots also infused his art with a sense of moral purpose. For 8 years, his Radioactive art collective and event series brings that intention to life with parties that blend social and political movements with dynamic lineups reflecting both the foundation and future of electronic music
Evocative, experimental and always focused on fun, James' myriad influences converge in a career that is deeply rooted in staying unique and coming correct. With a slew of releases planned in 2020, the lifelong performer is ready to make his mark.